More Than Just a Black Cat: Why cats are good for mental health
In 2018, black-and-white cat Tasha was finally offered a forever home after spending a year in the care of Cats Protection’s Gateshead & Newcastle Branch.
In return, the three-year-old moggy has enriched the life of her new owner Phil Sherry, by helping him with his mental health struggles.
Phil, a 48-year-old web developer from Gosforth in Newcastle upon Tyne said: “I’ve always been a cat fan, but hadn’t been able to live with any for the last five years, due to landlord restrictions.
“Coincidentally, my mental health had gone downhill a lot during those five years, so I decided I had to tackle the problem.
“I did my research and discovered Emotional Support Animals were a recognised thing, and asked my GP for help. He wrote a letter to my landlord and the landlord agreed to let me have one feline housemate. Result!”
With permission granted for Phil to welcome a cat into his life, it was in fact sheer luck that brought him and his new feline friend together.
“I was getting a lift to an event I was speaking at and my talk had lots of cats in it as visual metaphors, so I was thinking about cats,” said Phil.
“Next thing I knew, we were driving past the Cats Protection logo on a newish looking building. I had no idea it was there, but I made a note to look it up when I got home. I read through the descriptions of each cat, saw she’d been on the bench for a year, and that was that – rescued.”
Tasha, who Phil has renamed Lucy Fur, a play on words from a song by one of his favourite heavy metal bands, soon settled into her new home and has made a big difference to his mental health.
Phil explained: “I’m very happy with my own company. That is, I don’t need the constant company of other humans in my life. I’m often in too much pain to even get out of bed, never mind leave the house to meet people. That doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely though, which is where Lucy enters the story.
"She can sense when I’m extra ill and her behaviour changes; she’s far more present and cuddly, less zoomy and playful. Then there are the head butts. Cat head butts are power-ups, they instantly boost my energy and enhance my life.
“Lucy is more than just a cat, she’s my mental health coach.”
Why are cats good for mental health?
Cats are a wonderful addition to any home and they’re also great at helping to combat feelings of loneliness. Through the COVID-19 lockdowns, we’ve heard endless stories from cat owners about how the companionship of a moggy eased their worries. Cats can give you a sense of security and someone to share the day with.
Cats are also wonderful companions for children, teaching them empathy, compassion and responsibility.
Read more uplifting stories of cats helping owners with their mental health.
*An update from Phil and Lucy Fur - 19 June 2020*
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Phil has been working on online responses to the pandemic for large organisations, and Lucy Fur has been helping him cope with the increased work pressure as well as the loneliness of lockdown.
"I’ve been working flat out since the lockdown, and in such unusual circumstances I’ve needed Lucy more than ever," said Phil. "She makes sure I take a break, and helps keep some routine going in my life. Just having her around, going about her business and keeping me company is hugely beneficial to my mental health.”
This Loneliness Awareness Week (15-19 June 2020), The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cats, supported by Cats Protection and other animal welfare charities, has released a report called 'Cats as Companions: Can Cats Help Tackle Loneliness?' The report identifies that cat ownership and interaction is one of a number of measures with the potential to tackle loneliness across all age groups in specific social situations. To find out more, take a look at our blog post here.
Discover more heartwarming stories – and let us know what your monochrome moggy means to you at #MoreThanJustABlackCat.
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